This is the second time I am writing about Jumba la Mtwana, you can read the first post here. I recently visited the ruins and got a chance to explore more and taken more photos which I thought were worth sharing.
I took the trip with my brother who after the heavy lunch we had had in Mtwapa decided he would much rather nap on the beach than take a tour of the ruins. This time I skipped going into the museum.
I searched high and low on the internet for information about Jumba la Mtwana . I specifically searched for a paper written by Hamo Sassoon, titled ‘The Coastal Town of Jumba la Mtwana’ published in the 12th issue of Kenya Past and Present. There was no trace of the paper online. In the end I sourced all my information from this website and I suspect that the site got the information from the aforementioned elusive paper.
Jumba la Mtwana was opened to the public in 1973 and was gazetted as a national monument in 1982. Jumba la Mtwana, also known as “Jumba Ruins” is located approximately 20km (15km north of Mombasa, 3km off the Mombasa-Malindi road north of Mombasa in Mtwapa).
The name Jumba la Mtwana means in Swahili “the large house of the slave” however there are no written records to support this. The only thing we can be absolutely certain about is that the inhabitants were Muslims; the ruined mosques are the evidence for this.
Jumba was only inhabited for three or four generations. The Chinese porcelain and other kinds of pottery excavated in the ruins show that the occupation lasted from about 1350 to 1450, but without any written history of the area these dates must not be regarded as very accurate.
The ruins at Jumba include the remains of about eight houses, three mosques and a tomb.
Of the 3 mosques within the Ruins; the best preserved is the Mosque by the Sea. Like all mosques on this coast it is aligned with the Mihrab to the north. The main hall of the mosque is large; it probably had a flat roof made of lime concrete and supported on six pillars, but there is now no sign of the stone bases for these pillars.
At the south end of the Mosque there is a separate area that could have been assigned for women.
The second mosque described in the text is The Small Mosque And The Big Well
At the south end of the mosque there is a very fine well, which still contains good drinking water; it is 10.5 meters (35 ft) deep.
The 3rd mosque is located closer to the beach. I was able to identify it thanks to the Mihrab and there was also a well next to it.
I threw in a little rock to test how deep the well is and I didn’t hear it landing, perhaps I should have used a larger one.
Onto the houses, the first one I came across is the house of many doors.
Across the house of the many doors is the house of the cylinder. If it weren’t for the sign I wouldn’t have been able to identify it from the text.
Doorways frequently had niches (Swahili: Vidaka) on either side, perhaps for a copy of the Quran or for pottery lamps in which some vegetable oil would have been burnt.
Exercise caution when walking around the ruins, there were a couple of holes in the ruins and not all of them were fenced. The National Museums of Kenya have made an attempt to maintain the grounds but they can definitely do better.
And now here is a series of pictures with no explanations because I could not find any information about the structures.
The only info I can give about the structure is that it is among the 8 houses and is located near the 3rd mosque.
This house was located near the small mosque with the big well.
The ruins are located in a wooded area and there was no shortage of wild creatures
Once I was done exploring I went to take a walk on the beach. I had intended to swim but it is the cold season in Kenya so the weather was as warm.
The weather however was ideal for kite surfing so I spent my time on the beach watching this guy
I had no idea that the beach was a turtle nesting area so I was pleasantly surprised to see marked turtle nests. There was one big ‘nursery’ then a couple of lone nest clearly marked with the day they were laid and the hatching date.
Wear closed shoes when walking around the ruins and carry a pair of sandals for walking on the beach
Carry a picnic lunch, the prices at the closest restaurant are not pocket friendly.